Around 23 minutes into Antonino D'Ambrosio's punk-rock documentary, viewers finally get a glimpse of The Clash's Joe Strummer, whose lyrics for "Clampdown" lend Fury its title. Blink and you'll miss his black-and-white photo; it's just part of a Reagan/Thatcher-era montage. Also be warned: This isn't a music doc with vintage performance clips. Mainly it's a series of talking-heads interviews about punk and "creative response," featuring DJ Spooky, Lewis Black, Eve Ensler, Chuck D, Ian MacKaye, Billy Bragg, Shepard Fairey, and other pop-cultural insurgents.
Runs Fri., Feb. 15-Thurs. Feb. 21 at Grand Illusion. Not rated. 87 minutes.
In his first film, D'Ambrosio is eager to explain the origins of punk and hip-hop as a response to Vietnam, the Reagan years, etc. It's a familiar argument—which explodes like an incoherent piñata with so many voices in the mix (50 interviewees are credited).
Today, some 35 years (!) after punk broke, DIY is in its second generation. Its graying original practitioners are now a somewhat nostalgic lot. When Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello comments, "Fear is a tremendously effective propaganda tool used throughout history to cull masses into submission," he's saying nothing new. As for St. Strummer, previously the subject of D'Ambrosio's 2004 anthology book Let Fury Have the Hour (now being reissued), he just lingers at the doc's fringes, never coming into focus save for a few perfunctory "Joe Strummer changed my life" reflections.
For all the testimonials presented here, films like 1996's grunge doc Hype! and 2007's Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten do a much better job traversing similar material. Padded with sections on queer poetry and skateboarding, Fury occasionally tugs at your heart. But mainly it'll have you searching through the playlists on your phone—under O for oldies.